04/14/2022, 18.19
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President-elect Yoon meets former President Park

by Guido Alberto Casanova

Yoon visited North Gyeongsang Province this week to mend fences with local conservatives. The Park administration ended in 2016-17 amid a corruption scandal. The former president was released from prison in December. Elections for the mayor of Daegu are set for June.

Milan (AsiaNews) – With less than a month to go before Yoon Suk-yeol takes office as the next president of South Korea, the transition committee has already made public the names of the first ministers of the new cabinet.

Among South Korea’s conservatives, there is also some movement, as evinced by President-elect Yoon’s recent visit (11-12) April) to North Gyeongsang (Gyeongsang-buk) Province and Daegu Metropolitan City, traditional conservative strongholds, as well as his meeting with former President Park Geun-hye.

Yoon travelled to the country’s southeast to thank local voters for their support in the presidential election, since he won 73 per cent and 75 per cent of the vote respectively in the aforementioned province and city.

For Yoon another goal was to bury the hatchet within the conservative camp, in particular, in Daegu, which is linked to former President Park Geun-hye, who represented the area in South Korea’s National Assembly (parliament) for well over a decade before her election as president.

Her presidency (2013-2017) ended in impeachment, conviction on corruption charges, and a 22-year sentence. The prosecution in her case was led by Yoon as chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office.

The two met for the first time on Tuesday, but, understandably, relations between Yoon and Park are not easy. In fact, last year, when he ran in the primaries to become the candidate for the conservative People Power Party, he hardly won over any Park supporters.

However, in Daegu voters did place their trust in Yoon when it came time to pick a president, so the president-elect decided to pay a visit to Park who was pardoned last December and released.

The meeting with Park was brief but significant for at least three reasons. The first is that Yoon expressed his sadness on a human level for what happened to the former president, telling reporters that he told Park he always felt sad in his heart.

In addition to this, Yoon plans adopt some of her policies so that “she can regain her honour”, said Kwon Young-se, an official on Yoon's transition team.

Finally, Yoon said he wants to learn from Park's father, the former dictator President Park Chung-hee, founder of South Korea’s modern conservatism.

By visiting Park, Yoon is trying to rebuild a party not yet fully recovered from the shock of 2016-2017. The meeting was aimed at rebuilding a relationship of trust between some of the old guard and a new generation of conservatives who have climbed to the top of party thanks to Yoon and his rapid political rise as an outsider.

For Yoon, the first test will be upcoming local elections in June, with the Daegu mayoralty race a key ground to see if he can unite the right.

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